Govt announces review into PHARMAC

Prime Minister Health

The Government is following through on an election promise to conduct an independent review into PHARMAC, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister Andrew Little announced today.

The Review will focus on two areas:

  • How well PHARMAC performs against its current objectives and whether and how its performance against these could be improved.
  • Whether PHARMAC’s current objectives maximise its potential to improve health outcomes for all New Zealanders as part of the wider health system, and whether and how these objectives should be changed.

And will consider a range of factors, including:

  • The timeliness of PHARMAC’s decision making (in particular for new medicines).
  • The transparency and accessibility of decision-making processes.
  • Equity, including access to medicines and devices for Māori and Pacific peoples.

“Broadly, the PHARMAC model works well, and gives New Zealanders access to the medicines and products they need to live healthy lives, but we have heard people’s concerns about the model, and we believe there is scope for improving it,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“PHARMAC is a model that’s critically important to the health sector, and viewed as world-leading, but let’s make it better if we can.”

“Concerns raised about PHARMAC include access to new medicines, timeliness of decision making, and the application of criteria that inform PHARMAC’s prioritisation and funding decisions. The review will look at these matters,” Andrew Little said.

“In addition there have been concerns about the safety of substituting medicines due to cost and availability, and access to products that are funded in other countries but not here in New Zealand.”

“This review is about making a good system better and more responsive to key challenges facing our health system,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“It is vitally important that the public have trust and confidence in the PHARMAC model, including the way it considers new medicines, identifies and addresses safety concerns and the way it makes its decisions,” Andrew Little said.

“In scope will be how PHARMAC uses its budget to achieve the best possible outcomes.  Out of scope will be the fixed nature of the budget and the total amount allocated to pharmaceuticals as these quite rightly are for the Government of the day to determine.”

The independent panel will be chaired by consumer advocate Sue Chetwin and its members will be corporate governance and public law consultant Frank McLaughlin, experienced health economist and governance expert Heather Simpson, Pharmacist prescriber Leanne Te Karu, Otago University’s Department of Preventative and Social Medicine Associate Professor Sue Crengle and disability advocate Dr Tristram Ingham.

The review is intended to run until the end of the year with an interim report in August and a final report in December.

“I expect that the review committee will decide its own consultation process but that it will include at a minimum the appropriate input from consumers, Maori, Pacific peoples, clinicians and industry,” Andrew Little said.